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Abe wins big, lists priorities


Tokyo, October 24- Japan’s Prime Minister has vowed to make education and childcare a priority over balancing the budget after winning a new mandate from voters on Sunday, as a rapidly-ageing population threatens to undermine his efforts to reflate the economy.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition scored a landslide victory at the polls, boosted by his campaign promises to invest more heavily on education and childcare, aimed partly at encouraging more women to join the workforce.
But Abe, buoyed by a huge election win for lawmakers who favour revising Japan’s post-war, pacifist constitution, will need to convince a divided public to succeed.
Parties in favour of amending the US-drafted charter won nearly 80 per cent of the seats in Sunday’s lower house election, media counts showed. That left the small, new Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) as the biggest group opposed to Abe’s proposed changes.
Formed by liberal members of the Democratic Party, which imploded before the election and no longer exists in the lower house, the CDPJ won 55 seats, a final count by public broadcaster NHK shows. That is a fraction of the ruling bloc’s two-thirds majority of 313 seats in the 465-member chamber.
Abe said he wanted to get other parties on board, including Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s new conservative Party of Hope, and was not insisting on a target of changing the constitution by 2020 that he floated this year.
“We won a two-thirds majority as the ruling bloc, but it is necessary to strive to form a wide-ranging agreement among the ruling bloc and opposition (to revise the constitution),” Abe told a news conference on Monday.
“And then we aim to win the understanding of the people, so that we can gain a majority in a referendum,” Abe said. He stopped short of claiming to have won a mandate for amending the constitution in Sunday’s election.
Abe also made clear he would continue to press cautious Japanese firms to spend their record cash piles on boosting employees’ wages to stoke a virtuous growth cycle.
With his “Abenomics” recipe centred on hyper-easy monetary policy likely to continue, Abe’s solid election win also raised expectations he would reappoint Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda in early April when his five-year term expires.
Abe swept to power in late 2012, pledging to pull Japan’s economy, the world’s third largest, out of nearly two decades of deflation and stagnation. The economy is recovering gradually but sluggish wage growth keeps consumer spending and inflation from accelerating, while corporations face labour shortages due to a low birth rate and fast-ageing population.
The premier promised to offer free pre-school for all children aged three to five and for children aged two or below from low-income households. “The key to Japan’s sustainable growth is how we respond to ageing of the population, which is the biggest challenge for Abenomics,” Abe told a news conference.

 

Trump to promote free and open Indo-Pacific

region during Asia trip: WH

Washington, October 24- President Donald Trump would reaffirm the American leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region during his maiden trip to Asia next month, the White House has said.
Ten months into the world’s most powerful executive office, the US President would embark on a two-week-long trip to Asia.
“The President’s travel is going to underscore his commitment to longstanding United States alliances and partnerships and reaffirm the United States’ leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific,” a senior administration official told reporters in a preview of the trip.
Trump himself told reporters in a joint media appearance with the visiting Prime Minister of Singapore that he is looking forward to his trip to Asia from November 3 to 14.
“This trip will be the President’s longest to date, underscoring the importance that he places on the Indo-Pacific region,” the senior administration official said.
While his visits to Japan, South Korea and China are bilateral ones, during his stops in Vietnam and the Philippines, Trump will be participating in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit and the US ASEAN Summit.
In Vietnam and the Philippines, Trump also plans to hold bilateral and trilateral meetings with other world leaders, details of which are still being worked out.
Trump would embark on his Indo-Pacific sojourn on November 3 via Hawaii wherein he will receive a briefing from the US Pacific Command.
He will also visit Pearl Harbour and the USS Arizona Memorial.
The President will officially commence his visit to Asia beginning with Japan on November 5.
In Japan, “he is going to affirm the US-Japan Alliance as the cornerstone for regional peace and security,” the official said, adding that he would focus on ways for the US and Japan to work together to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific Region.
During his state visit to South Korea on November 7, Trump will participate in bilateral meetings with President Moon Jae-in and also visit American and South Korean service members.
The next day, he will speak at the National Assembly in Korea, where he will celebrate the enduring alliance and friendship between the United States and the Republic of Korea and call on the international community to join together in maximising pressure on North Korea.
Trump is likely to highlight the enduring strength of the US-South Korea alliance, which is stronger than ever in the face of North Korean aggression, the official said.
Trump would fly to Beijing the next day for a series of bilateral, commercial and cultural events, including meetings with President Xi Jinping.
“I anticipate that the President will seek to secure China’s commitments to exert more pressure on North Korea and to rebalance our economic relations.
The visit will send a clear message that for bilateral economic relations to be sustainable over the long term, China must provide fair and reciprocal treatment to US firms and cease predatory trade and investment practices,” the official said.
The President will then travel to Da Nang in Vietnam on November 10, where he will participate in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), economic leaders meeting and deliver a speech at the APEC CEO Summit.
“In the speech, Trump will present the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and underscore the important role the region plays in advancing America’s economic prosperity,” the official said, adding that Trump’s engagements at APEC would reinforce the US commitment to an equitable, sustainable and rules-based international economic system based on market principles.
On November 11, Trump will travel to Hanoi, where he’s going to have an official visit and bilateral engagements with President Tran Dai Quang and other senior Vietnamese leaders.
President Trump will arrive in Manila in the Philippines on November 12 to participate in a special gala celebration dinner for the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

 

Spain to dismiss Catalonia

government, call elections


Madrid, October 22- Spain said today that it will move to dismiss Catalonia’s separatist government and call fresh elections in the region in a bid to stop its leaders from declaring independence.
Speaking after an emergency cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said his government had no choice after the administration of Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont acted in a way that was “unilateral, contrary to the law and seeking confrontation” in holding a banned independence referendum in the northeastern region.
Taking Spain into uncharted legal waters by using Article 155 of the constitution, which allows Madrid to wrest back control of rebellious regions, Rajoy said he was asking the Senate to give him permission to dissolve the Catalan parliament and “call elections within a maximum of six months”.
He is also requesting that all of Puigdemont’s government be stripped of their functions, which “in principle will be carried out by (national) ministers for the duration of this exceptional situation.” The national Senate will now have to agree to these unprecedented steps - a process that will take about a week.
Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party holds a majority in the Senate. As the measures enjoy the support of other major parties, they are highly likely to pass.
Catalonia sparked Spain’s worst political crisis in decades with the chaotic referendum on October 1, which Puigdemont said resulted in a 90 per cent vote in favour of breaking away from Spain.
But turnout was given as 43 per cent as many anti- independence Catalans stayed away from the vote, which had been ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court, while others were hindered from voting by a police crackdown.

Sex with minor wife is rape,

rules Supreme Court

New Delhi, October 11- The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that sexual intercourse with a minor wife would amount to rape.
A Bench of Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta read down exception under Section 375 of the IPC that defines rape.
The Bench said the age of consent (which is 18 years) can’t be lowered.
A minor wife would have to file rape complaint within a year of the alleged crime, the top court said.
The ruling harmonises the definition of rape under the IPC with POCSO which treats sex with a minor as crime irrespective of her consent.
Ironically, child marriage is prohibited in India but such marriages, if solemnised, are not void. Child marriage is voidable at the instance of the minor who can exercise the option of repudiating it.
The court had already clarified that it was not dealing with marital rape in general, which women’s rights activists have been demanding to be declared a crime.
The order came on a PIL filed by Independent Thought, an NGO, in 2013, demanding to declare Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC unconstitutional. The NGO had contended it violated Articles 14 (right to equality), 15 (right to non-discrimination) and 21 (right to live with human dignity) of the Constitution.
The exception permitted intrusive sexual intercourse with a girl child aged between 15 and 18 only on the grounds that she has been married, the petitioner pointed out and requested the court to declare that the age of consent for sexual relationship should be treated as 18, irrespective of the marital status of the girl child.
The petitioners contended that since the legal age for giving consent for sex is 18, sex with a girl between the age of 15 and 18 in the case of child marriages even with her consent would amount to rape.
Citing the Constitution Bench verdict declaring triple talaq unconstitutional on the grounds of arbitrariness, petitioner's counsel Gaurav Agrawal had argued that Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC was arbitrary and, hence should be declared unconstitutional. “It’s arbitrary because all the other laws except Section 375 treat girls below 18 as a child,” Agrawal had submitted.
Citing various reports, the petitioner had said that sexual intercourse with minor girls could lead to physical and mental health hazards.
Maintaining that the general age of consent was 18, the petitioner pointed out that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, made it an offence to solemnise the marriage of a girl below 18, though the marriage itself was voidable at the instance of the child and not void.
There was a  disparity in the age of consent under the law, that is, the age of consent is 18 years for a girl who is not married, while the age of consent is 15 years for a girl who is married, the petitioner had pointed out.
The law should not encourage sexual relationship with a girl child less than 18 years under any circumstance and simply because the girl is married, she cannot be subjected to such a violation, the NGO had contended.
Women’s rights activists have been demanding that marital rape in general to be made a criminal offence on the grounds that it forces women to suffer the worst form of sexual violence silently within their matrimonial homes.
But in February 2015, the top court had refused to entertain an MNC executive’s plea to declare marital rape a criminal offence, saying it wasn’t possible to order a change in the law for one person. It was for the legislature to take a call on it, the top court had said.

 

2 IAF personnel killed in

gunfight with militants in Kashmir

Srinagar, October 11- Two IAF personnel were killed in a gunfight with militants in Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday, an army official said.
The IAF personnel were part of the operation for training.
Two militants were also killed in the operation in Hajin area of Bandipora, the official said.
He said the two Indian Air Force Garud personnel who were injured in the gunfight with militants later succumbed to their injuries.
The operation was going on reports last came in, he added.


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